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by Brendan Murray, Market Analyst, Space and Telecommunications

As no one individual can possibly know all about our industry, we rely upon proven expertise in various subject-matter arenas to help us understand various aspects of various market segments. One such firm is Futron, and Brendan Murray, the Market Analyst for Space and Telecommunications at Futron offers the following thoughts...

China and video equipment — we’ve certainly heard this story before! When it comes to selecting a telecommunications standard, China’s State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is following a familiar path through its decision to install proprietary technology, rather than adopt a standard that has been established elsewhere in the region, or in the West.

In the same way that China insisted on deploying its own standard for 3G wireless voice/data services, the nascent DTH platform  (Free-to-Air on Chinasat-9) is based on the home-grown ABS-S standard, as opposed to the widely used DVB-S, or the up-and-coming DVB-S2. This is despite the fact that millions of “unsanctioned” dishes in China are connected to set-top- boxes (STBs) receiving signals transmitted on foreign satellites in DVB-S.

One could chalk that up to applying an advanced technology in a greenfield environment. There’s no legacy equipment to swap out, apart from the “unsanctioned dishes”: China is building this DTH community from scratch as part of a nationwide plan to distribute state controlled content to remote villages underserved by terrestrial television signals. And ABS-S is an improvement in efficiency over DVB-S, requiring 30 percent less power equivalent bandwidth. This allows the operator to transmit more  channels or reduce the receive antenna size. Of course, similar claims could be made about DVB-S2, which is starting to be deployed in different regions as a means to more efficiently add HD content to existing packages. Why not go with a standard that is starting to prove itself on the global stage?

Choosing a home-grown standard may also have been to serve as a stimulus to the domestic STB and VSAT industries. In December of 2008, SARFT awarded contracts to seven companies to supply more than 3.6 million STBs.  The biggest winners of the tender were Chinese, including Changhong Electronic Co. Ltd., Jiuzhou Electronic Technology Co. Ltd., and Shenzhou Electronic Co. Ltd. More tenders are expected over the next two years. It remains to be seen if the DTH community on Chinasat-9 will see a pay-TV service with additional channels and value-added services.